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Great Northern towns celebrate 100 years

Posted 7/05/16 (Tue)

Great Northern towns celebrate 100 years

By Carrie Sandstrom
At 99 years old, Gail Johnson is about ready to celebrate her own centennial, but Saturday out in Grenora and Alamo she was helping the towns celebrate their centennials instead.
Johnson, who lives in Williston, said at her age it’s a treat to be able to come up and visit her relatives and friends in the two towns.
“I’m the oldest one here,” Johnson said. “I don’t doubt it.”
Graduates of Grenora High School dotted the parade route wearing gold ribbons with their names and graduating class. Beverly Peterson Johnston, Grenora class of ‘56, and her husband Dwight Pfeifer were part of this group. They made their way back to Grenora for the weekend’s celebration from Arizona where they’ve lived since 2003. 
The ribbons, Johnston said, were used so folks could recognize friends and classmates they hadn’t seen in a while. At a class dinner on Friday night, Johnston said she had an opportunity to reflect on old memories and reconnect with her classmates, some of whom she hadn’t seen in almost 40 years.
“The town looks really nice,” Johnston said. “I’m so pleased and grateful.”
As Johnston watched the parade march down Main Street, Shelley Larson joined with fellow Grenora Alumni and current students to play in the band. Time to practice was tight for the group -- some members of the band didn’t get to town until the day before the parade -- but Larson said it was a way for them to give back to the community after all it had given to them.
“I wanted my kids to see where I grew up, the community,” Larson said. “It’s home when you get here. You make so many memories growing up.”
Larson, who now works as a teacher in Williston, graduated from Grenora High School in 1989, where she played in the school band during her high school days. She even was chosen as a local representative for North Dakota’s Centennial Band, which traveled the state performing. They had the chance to play for President Bush and they went to California to play in the Rose Bowl Parade.
Although she said the town is different from when she was growing up, Larson said some things haven’t changed for herself and her fellow bandmates.
“We still love music,” Larson said.
Following the parade in Grenora, Johnson hit the road and headed over to Alamo where her kids went to school when they were younger. Folks in the town donned Alamo Greenwave shirts and kids with their faces painted came down the street on bicycles and wagons bearing signs that read “Future Greenwaves.”
“There are lots of faces here you haven’t seen for a long time,” Debbie Moe said. “People came back from all over the country.”
Moe and her sister, Sandra Simonson, graduating in ‘81 and ‘86, respectively, were selling Greenwave shirts that Simonson had made. The two were members of some of the last graduating classes to bear the Greenwave name before the high school in Alamo was closed in 1992. Simonson said she made the shirts for nostalgic reasons, adding that it’s hard to find Greenwave gear these days.
To pull off the celebration, Simonson said, “The whole town has jumped in and helped out.”
“Everyone has contributed in some way.”
Later that night, folks in Grenora took in the Sawyer Brown concert, while over in Alamo people congregated on Main Street for a dance and to watch fireworks. The band playing in Alamo, Balderdash, played “Happy Birthday” for Kathy Opperud who was celebrating her 60th birthday. 
As for Gail Johnson, she said she enjoyed visiting with folks and taking in the festivities. She said she’d seen many of her children’s old friends and was enjoying talking to the younger people because there aren’t many people her age left.